Thursday, May. 23, 2024

My Greatest Adventure

I’ve been around the world twice, been to all seven continents, stood on the equator and the Greenwich Meridian, and am one of a tiny number of people who have traveled to Antarctica. Being 12 years old, I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world, and this is the story of my adventure.
PUBLISHED
WORDS BY

ADVERTISEMENT

I’ve been around the world twice, been to all seven continents, stood on the equator and the Greenwich Meridian, and am one of a tiny number of people who have traveled to Antarctica. Being 12 years old, I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world, and this is the story of my adventure.

In mid-August 2006, just after my 12th birthday, my family and I left for a nine-month trip around the world. I must make it clear—this was not my idea of a good time.

Of course, I was lucky to be taking a year off from school and traveling the world with my family, but I was less than thrilled. I wept at the idea of leaving my world, the pony world, for months at a time. I wondered how on earth I was going to accomplish my dream of being a riding phenomenon if I took this much time off from my life back home in Virginia.

I left my ponies in the trusted hands of my trainer, Katie Huber at their home at Stoneridge Show Stables in Great Falls, Va. Tiddlywinks, Out Of The Blue and I had been together for many years, but we had just bought One More Time, my large green pony, in August. I felt guilty leaving them all behind. I asked my friends to give them carrots, gave them each a big kiss, and left for an experience I would never forget.

We started in Africa, went to Ghana and then on to Kenya, and then traveled to Australia. We arrived home for about a month in October.

The morning after Halloween we left again, this time for Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Greece and Italy (Rome and Venice), arriving home just in time for Christmas.

Before the year ended, we left again. This time we were off to Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, Peru, a cruise down the Amazon River, Chile, Argentina and a remarkable cruise to Antarctica. We came home again for the Florida winter shows.

We left for the last segment at the end of March and headed for Paris, London, Hamburg (Germany), India and China. We arrived home at last on May 3.

A World Of Horses

At the beginning of the second segment of our trip, I noticed all of the horses around me. We hadn’t been around many horses in Africa or Australia.

In Cairo, Egypt, the horses were well taken care of. They had shiny coats and bright eyes as they pulled their carts of tourists through the city.

ADVERTISEMENT

When we were at the Pyramids of Giza, however, I had to look away from the sight of the tourist carriage horses. They were skinny and lame, and I believe I could see each bone in their bodies. They had to trot up a steep road to arrive at the pyramids from the city below. With no studs in their shoes, they slipped and skidded.

Immediately, I felt how lucky I was to have three of my own fat, happy ponies, with a good farrier and a veterinarian. The main purpose of the horses in Egypt was to bring money to the owner, and they would work long hours to get it.

We continued to travel south in Egypt. We took a cruise up the Nile River, and at one of the stops I saw horses with carriages again. Our guide warned me that these horses are mainly for work and not to be shocked at their condition. The people were even poorer in this part of the country, and the horses were even skinnier.

The boat docked, and we all got out. To my horror, there was a horse cart waiting to take us to an ancient temple. As we drove along, I questioned myself if it was better to give the driver money to feed the poor horse, or to give the horse one less drive to save his energy and not make him any weaker.

I had saved sugar for the horse, and she was glad to have it. The next day we docked again, and once again there were horse carriages waiting. Pulling our cart was a small horse whose teeth were very small, and I guessed that she was only about 2 years old. We trotted along the road, and then something terrible happened—she tripped and fell on her knees. She turned out to be fine, and I thanked God for that. She was a very sweet horse, and I was happy I had more sugar in my pocket.

In Rome, we saw carriage horses waiting at the Vatican, taking naps in the sun, totally bored, while their drivers were eating lunch. They wore galloping boots, jumper ear bonnets, and even had grooming buckets with hoof oil hanging from their carriages. I made a point to tell them how lucky they were, to be fed every day, groomed continuously, and loved so much.

In Peru, we stopped for lunch at a hotel. The hotel offered riding, and I walked down to the stables to see the horses. They were the native Peruvian Paso.

The Peruvian Pasos have smooth gaits. At the shows, the riders each hold a glass of liquid while riding, and whoever keeps the most in their cup is the winner. The horses we saw were show horses. They had beautiful tack, with gold and silver artwork. The stable also ran a breeding program, and there were many tiny foals running around. This was a thrill to see them and to know they were all beautifully taken care of.

In India, horses are either used for hard work or lucky enough to be used for polo or shows. The polo ponies lived like royalty in clean stalls with name plaques. They even had string browbands to keep the flies away. In India, polo is played in the winter, for the summer season is brutally hot, getting up to well over 120 degrees (F).

ADVERTISEMENT

The workhorses are used to pull wooden carts holding whatever the owner wants. Some of them were very skinny and dull coated. They trot along the side of the roads, and I had to close my eyes when we would go fast around them.

The native breed to India is the Marwari Horse. They are desert horses and live off of almost nothing at all. They can grow to around 16.2 hands. They look related to the Arabian, though these horses do not have dished faces, they have flat ones with ears that point in at the tips and almost touch.

The Marwari comes in all different colors, though I did not see a leopard coat like my Tiddlywinks. They’re not used for polo but mainly for working and helping the owner. The Indian people are very proud of this breed. Our guide, Nagendra, bred Marwaris and showed them in hand. He and I would talk “horsy talk” together a lot.

Our Precious World

All around the world, horses are different. They can be skinny and hard workers like in Egypt, or fat and happy like in Rome.

There are many different breeds too, like the Indian Marwari or the Peruvian Paso. They all have one thing in common—the love for their owners. They will do anything for them; it might be showing over jumps in America or pulling carts of goods in India.

While I was traveling, I realized how truly lucky I am. I live in the United States, the richest country in the world, and near our Nation’s Capital, Washington, D.C. Because of this trip, my thoughts on what I’m grateful for have changed dramatically.

I now feel grateful that I have a home, a laundry machine, cars, pets, friends and family who love me, and the beautiful lifestyle in my city. From being in China, I understand now why our country’s leaders work so hard to keep the environment healthy. This has  made me think about the amount of water I use to take a shower, or even brush my teeth, because it really does matter to the environment.

After all of these things, however, the one aspect of my life I’m grateful for is my sport. Children in Ghana spent their days helping their families with homes and cooking, while I ride my ponies out in a field with my friends. I can have two saddles and expensive clothing while many children in Ghana feel lucky even to have a pair of shoes.

Traveling around the world has shown me many aspects of our earth. There’s pollution in China, poverty in Ghana, beggars in India and poachers in Kenya. Our world is precious, and I feel wonderfully lucky to know this. I’m grateful my father had this dream of traveling, and I’m thankful for my wonderful family at the barn.

My family kept a website with more photos and thoughts about our time on the road: www.LifesGreatestAdventure.com.

Anna Rossi

Categories:

ADVERTISEMENT

EXPLORE MORE

Follow us on

Sections

Copyright © 2024 The Chronicle of the Horse